Friday, July 31, 2009

Singing Outside of the Choir

I am excited about The Rap Sheet publishing Tom Cain’s ‘Bloodsport’ online thriller story next week, which will certainly turn a few heads. Some may wonder why I chose to help facilitate this project; and many other such projects over the years.

Can I be brutal? Can I be Passionate? Yes I can!

I am huge bibliophile and reader who loves to talk and discuss books. I have become saddened by the terrible state of publishing and literacy brought on by books being marginalised, especially in the young. I write for various magazines, and ezines with a strong bias toward Crime and Thriller Fiction [though I read widely including Literary, SF and Horror]. The venues I write for, are peopled and read by my fellow readers [and colleagues]; but sometimes I feel I’m singing to the choir, when I should be trying to get non-readers back into the fiction-reading habit. I spend a lot of my time when not ‘singing to the choir’, telling people about books. My hairdresser [and her staff and customers] enjoy my presence once every two months when I get my haircut, as I tell them about all the books I read and enjoyed since my last visit. At dinner parties, I’m the guy talking about books. I supply photos of writers to many magazines, libraries and ezines worldwide. I write non-fiction about books and the literary world. On Twitter I have many ‘followers’ who don’t read [anywhere near] as fanatically as I do; but if I talk loud enough, many often respond. Many people buy books I recommend, review and talk about. I always give books as presents. Basically what I am saying is that I do sing outside of the choir, enthusing people to read fiction, which I believe is important.

I am passionate about the written word

Look at how totalitarian states suppress books, burn them and dumb down their populations, filling their lives with mind-numbing TV, a form of mind-control. I don’t watch TV, period. I can control my own thoughts thank you very much, and I chose what I read very carefully, including which newspapers, magazines I subscribe to.

Back in 2006, I arranged via Stav Sherez to bring with us writer and Telegraph editor - Damien Thompson to the inaugural Thrillerfest convention held at the Arizona Biltmore. On our return to the UK, Damien had managed to get a three full page feature in the Saturday Telegraph, which included a link to where I work as assistant editor. This resulted in a huge number of hits forcing us [willingly to invest in more bandwidth]. Since then some of those Shots readers, stayed with us and currently we’re the No 2 website in the world covering Crime, Mystery and Thriller Fiction, second only to Kevin Burton Smith’s Thrilling Detective. Due to the huge amount of material at Shots, which includes author interviews, reviews, features, competitions we get >18,000 unique hits per day, which though not anywhere close to the numbers internet pornography or internet gambling receives, for crime / thrillers is pretty respectable. I have to thank our advertisers who help fund the site; though to be fair it is really a labour of love and takes a huge effort from our staff, especially Grog and Gary our wonderful webmasters and of course Editor-in-Chief Mike Stotter – a great friend and fellow advocate. I owe a huge amount to Mike, a debt I can never repay.

Going back to Tom Cain’s Bloodsport - what we hope to achieve thanks to Jeff Peirce of The Rap Sheet; and Tom Cain is to provide an excellent [if rather controversial] online experiment by featuring Cain’s gripping story. We have a view to reach out to as many people who don’t normally read thrillers as we possibly can. This little [but powerful] story may well provoke casual readers to venture into a bookstore and perhaps pick up a book or two. When you tot-up the ratio of book-buyers to non book buyers, it is very worrying. Next time you’re on a train or waiting at an airport; count up the ratio of people reading novels to those reading the dreadfully written ‘free’ newspapers, or twiddling with I-Pods, cellphones. Then tell me that the publishing industry is not in trouble, because the market for fiction is shrinking fast.

But I refuse to accept this as the future, as the future is not yet set

I see my job as a writer, reader, reviewer and blogger - to enthuse as many people as I can into reading books, because books are dangerous, but in a good way, because they make you think about life and existence. They do this far better than any damned cell-phone, I-Pod, tatty free newspaper or the great controller – TV.

I read this article from David Simon, which worried me about the state of print journalism – When it comes to books and newspapers – use them or lose them. It’s as simple as that. When we lose the writers and journalists who patrol societies edges and extremes, then the men-behind-the-curtain will have succeeded, and we’ve lost. But I will fight on until they tear my books from my bleeding fingers or smash my reading glasses. Sometimes I'm reminded / haunted by the image of the late Burgess Meredith from the apocalptic episode [about the obsessive reader] from The Twilight Zone - you know which one.

So when you next get the opportunity - Please talk about books to everyone; please help get reading back up the agenda, not relegated to ‘any-other-business’.

I hope to see you all on Sunday at The Rap Sheet as Tom Cain will start to tell you about his writing in a new interview, and then on Monday 3rd August starts the 3 part serialisation of ‘Bloodsport’ – and trust me, it’s a blast [literally] and please tell your friends, especially those who don’t read novels. This little story may well remind them how exciting reading is at its zenith.

Let’s remind everyone that reading is a crucially relevant part of existence; and an integral facet of the human experience - End of sermon, fellow choir members.

"After all manner of professors have done their best for us, the place we are to get knowledge is in books. The true university of these days is a collection of books."Albert Camus

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Dennis Lehane

Advance notice for Dennis Lehane’s birthday on Tuesday 4th August which he shares with President Barack Obama [who turns 48]. I was most fortunate to interview Dennis earlier this year when he made a rare visit to London – Click Here to read the feature.

As a big fan of his gothic masterwork Shutter Island, which is coming to a Cinema Screen this autumn - I think it only appropriate that we get Leonardo DiCaprio to light the 44 candles on Dennis’ cake.